Two more cases of novel Alaskapox virus reported

Following on from the detection In 2015 and 2020 of two novel orthopox cases in the Fairbanks area of Alaska, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has recently reported that two additional infections were detected in July and August, of this year. 

The orthopox, named Alaskapox virus, isn't related to any other known orthopox viruses but causes similar symptoms, such as swelling, lesions, fever, and fatigue. The two new cases have been found in a young girl who had a lesion on the inside of her elbow, and the other in a middle-aged woman who had a lesion on her inner thigh.

An investigation found that neither of the patients had traveled outside of Fairbanks area in the 4 weeks prior to symptom onset. Both households had dogs and cats, and the cats were known to hunt small mammals. No specific source of the virus was found, but both patients had spent time outdoors in the summer, and the woman had spent significant time doing yardwork the week before her symptoms began.

Health officials note that all four patients who have experienced Alaskapox live in low-density housing areas in forested regions where small mammals are widespread. Three live in households with cats, a species known to be intermediate hosts for other orthopox viruses. Small-animal trapping in the Fairbanks area has also yielded Alaskapox virus.

Though the infections may be more common than initially thought, no human-to-human spread has been reported and all cases were identified in outpatient settings. So far the public health impact is limited, the report said.

The full report can be read here

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